Being on the Galápagos Islands is like being on a film set. There’s a wildlife drama unfolding before your eyes and you’re quickly reminded that you are not the star here – they are. The giant tortoises, sea lions, marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies run this show and you’re privileged to have a role.
LEAD Adventures gives you access to the most vital areas through its three week Galápagos Experience. You see the best of what these islands have to offer and give something back in return.
It all starts with two nights in Quito. You have free time to explore this UNESCO World Heritage city (http://bit.ly/1tvyAOt) and the Centro Histórico is a good place to start. At night, many visitors go to the bars and restaurants around Plaza Foch in the Mariscal area, which often have live music.
Early on Tuesday morning, the adventure begins. You’re flown to Santa Cruz and one of the first things you see is what the Galápagos are famous for – giant tortoises. At the Primicias Ranch they literally stop you in your tracks, as they take over the pathways to seek shade in the trees.
It’s then time to explore some of the ocean wildlife, which starts with a boat trip around Academy Bay. You can leap into the sea and come face to face with a parrotfish and then catch a blue-footed booby flying overhead. Turtles, white tipped reef sharks and manta rays can also be found here.
Another good snorkelling spot is at the small island of Floreana, where you can also find the small Galápagos penguins. Your guide also tells you all about the island’s colourful history, with tales of pirates, whalers and mysterious deaths.
By the end of the first week, you have a clear understanding of why Galápagos wildlife is unique and why it needs to be conserved. That is why LEAD Adventures then arrange a week of volunteering on the island of San Cristóbal. The project is based in the highlands and its aim is to reconstruct the native habitat by eradicating invasive plants.
It can be hard work, but it’s a rewarding experience.
In your final week, be prepared for complete relaxation on Isabela.
It’s a special place that’s home to one of the most active volcanoes on the Galápagos and the hike up to the Sierra Negra (http://bit.ly/1gM60If) has some of the most breathtaking landscapes you’ll ever see. It last erupted in 2005. Some of the tortoises had to be rescued by helicopter, and can be visited at the local breeding centre.
It’s not everyday that you get up close and personal with marine iguanas and at Las Tintoreras, you find them swimming past your head. This islet is also famous for its white tip sharks.
The following day, is an unforgettable day. Los Túneles is one of the most unusual seascapes you’ll ever encounter. It’s a labyrinth of lava bridges which continue deep beneath the surface. Navigating your way through this underwater city is a delight and the variety of wildlife is amazing. Sharks, sea lions, penguins, turtles and manta rays can be found here.
This is a trip for real travellers who want to learn and discover. That’s why LEAD Adventures guarantee three things – great access to the islands, more time on the islands and a briefing session by one of their biologists. The Galápagos Experience is a unique experience and one you’ll never forget.